Nashville Music Community Assesses the Damage

The Cost May Reach Into the Billions for the Region

In the wake of the weekend’s devastating storm and subsequent widespread flooding, all of Nashville and Middle Tennessee by Tuesday (May 4) — as the floodwaters slowly began to a recede and the sun shone brightly — began to try to assess the total impact and the extent of the damages. And to attempt to start some kind of cleanup. Local officials said the cleanup and fix-up costs may stretch into the billions for the region, where wide-ranging flood waters begin to slowly recede.

The music community in particular was hard hit. When the Cumberland River crested at 52 feet on Monday (May 3), its waters spread through a sizable portion of downtown, affecting a number of structures. Among them were the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Demonbreun, where a lower level flooded and water rose to the third row of seats in the Ford Theater. Spokesperson Liz Thiels said that none of the Hall’s exhibits were threatened. The Hall remained closed at press time.

Down the street at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the basement filled with water and employees said that the interior was otherwise undamaged, although a multi-million-dollar organ and two Steinway Grand Pianos were ruined.

Across the way, on Broadway, the Bridgestone Arena’s event floor was covered with two feet of water. Across the river at L.P. Field, home of the Tennessee Titans, the water rose on the playing field almost to the first row of seats. L.P. Field is also the site of the annual CMA Music Festival. CMA chairman Steve Moore said that the annual event, to be held June 10-13 this year, is still on schedule.

Also across the river in East Nashville is Soundcheck Nashville, a huge rehearsal facility. It was submerged, and police will not allow employees back into the building until the Cumberland recedes below flood stage of 40 feet. That is estimated to be Thursday. Only then can they discover how many musical instruments and expensive gear has been ruined.

Nashville’s 2nd Avenue establishments were also hit, including the Hard Rock CafĂ© and the Wildhorse Saloon, which were forced to close after their basements flooded and they lost power.

Power in downtown Nashville extending west to Fifth Avenue and stretching from Demonbreun to Commerce remained off late Tuesday to a number of buildings, including the CMT building. NES officials said they might be able to begin restoring power by Friday — failing that, early next week.

Damage was even worse out at the Opryland complex, located on the Cumberland, where the river completely surrounded the massive 3,000-room Opryland Hotel, the Grand Ole Opry House and the Opry museum and Opry Mills shopping mall. The hotel was flooded with between eight and 12 feet of water in some areas. Fortunately all 1,500 hotel guests and another 500 staff members were evacuated before the flooding began. Officials said the hotel might be completely cleaned up and refurbished and able to open by Christmas.

The Grand Ole Opry House had water on its famed stage, and floodwaters almost entirely covered the main floor pews. The building will be closed for an as-yet-undetermined amount of time for repair. The famous Opry stage microphones were saved — to be used in future shows. Meanwhile, this week’s Opry performances were moving to the Ryman Auditorium and War Memorial Auditorium, both former homes of the Opry.

Opry officials said they had not yet been able to estimate what damage was done to the Opry Museum, located in a separate building. All of the Opry’s archives are located in that building.

Radio station WSM was forced to moved its studio operations from the Opryland complex to its antenna location on the outskirts of Nashville.

Gaylord was hit so hard that the company announced that it will withdraw reports on its 2010 financial earnings. The hotel alone will lose many large conventions this year.

View photos from the Nashville flood. Visit CMT One Country to find out how you can help.